Details from Audible:

The Short Stories, Volume I

Publisher’s Summary

Before he gained wide fame as a novelist, Ernest Hemingway established his literary reputation with his short stories. Set in the varied landscapes of Spain, Africa, and the American Midwest, this definitive audio collection traces the development and maturation of Hemingway’s distinct and revolutionary storytelling style – from the plain bald language of his first story to his mastery of seamless prose that contained a spare, eloquent pathos, as well as a sense of expansive solitude. These stories showcase the singular talent of a master, the most important American writer of the 20th century.The Short Stories, Volume 1 features Stacy Keach reading favorites including:

  • The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber
  • The Capital of the World
  • The Snows of Kilimanjaro
  • Old Man at the Bridge
  • Up in Michigan
  • On the Quai at Smyrna
  • Indian Camp
  • The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife
  • The End of Something
  • The Three-Day Blow
  • The Battler
  • A Very Short Story
  • Soldier’s Home
  • The Revolutionist
  • Mr. and Mrs. Elliot
  • Cat in the Rain
  • Out of Season
  • Cross-Country Snow¬©1953 Ernest Hemingway, All Rights Reserved; (P)2002 Simon & Schuster Inc., All Rights Reserved, AUDIOWORKS Is an Imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster Inc.

Initial Thoughts:

I know Hemingway is one of the greatest American writers. He lead an amazing life and I’ll always have a fondness for him (and a small obsession, you can read about that here) but that doesn’t mean I love everything he did. I read some of his short stories way back in high school (and in University) and it seemed after 20+ years, it was high time I got back to it. Well that and the fact that I’ve been writing short-stories myself and wanted to learn from a master.

Main Points:

I enjoyed 11 out of these 18 stories. Which is only just more than 60% of them. I’m not going to go through my thoughts on each short story, just give an overall impression (and my thoughts on a few) because frankly, I just don’t want to. This is a short collection of 18 stories and the whole thing is only 5 hours long, you could easily listen to the whole thing in a day.

So while some of these stories are an absolute delight (The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, The Capital of the World and The Snows of Kilimanjaro to name a few) others are just mediocre and still others, pure confusing, crap. Hemingway really believed in an economy of words for his story-telling, I admire that but there are times when he takes it too far. For example one story just ends with a woman raped, no idea how she feels, no reaction from the man, almost no resolution, no police, quilt or shame.

I know Hemingway write depressing stories but still you really get a sense that even early in life he was obsessed with death and ultimately became a depressed person. He has this habit of a nice, happy event happening in the story only to have it all end up in the toilet by the end. There are stories where it works but others where it seems he felt he just had to kill someone and it seems unnecessary.

One of the characters, Nick Adams, is based on Hemingway himself and appears in several of these stories. I like Nick and some of his stories are excellent but shows once more the difficulties Hemingway faced with love, relationships and depression. One particular story, “The Battler” bothered me. In it Nick is thrown off a train (presumably he never paid for a ticket) and soon meets up with two men in the woods. One man is a down on his lucky, deeply troubled boxer and the other an ex-con (but quite kind and helpful). The N word is used here many time to describe the ex-con and I’m certain Hemingway did it in a derogatory manner. I know that Hemingway died in 1961 and the world was certainly a different place but that is no excuse. It just seemed completely unneeded here and offensive. I’m not sure if Hemingway was a racist but this makes me wonder.

I also found some stories to be unnecessarily gory. I know Hemingway loved to hunt (and yet he loved cats, always seemed bizarre to me) and if graphic description of hunting wild animals bother you, well perhaps you should skip some of these stories. Hemingway was a master of description, language and dialogue. The characters here all are believable and well-developed (with a few notable exceptions). His descriptions of Italy (though we don’t get much of the countryside) are amazing and you really feel you are then for many of the bull-fighting stories. The same advice does follow apply to them as before though, gory details of bulls deaths in the ring can make it difficult to get through at times.

One story even discusses suicide, which now seems especially sad/ironic knowing how Heminway ended his life. I’ll discuss one other story that I loved (and doesn’t end in tragedy or sadness for a change) called “The Three Day Blow” it’s just about two guys (one who is Nick) getting drunk and talking in a cabin, while a storm rages outside. Some parts of this story are very funny and Nick even shows hope of rekindling a relationship at the end. I admired the simplicity of it and as someone who enjoys a social drink, I must say there is a wonderful pleasure of just spending time with a good friend and drinking that is well expressed here.

Final Thoughts:

If you are thinking about writing short stories you need to read/listen to this. Both for what you should and (I feel) shouldn’t do. I do recommend this collection, certainly to any Hemingway fan, with the idea of being prepared to just skip over any story you don’t like. I didn’t but I always have to read a book straight through. For the good one, the mediocre and the excellent I give it 7 out of 10. Please don’t let kids listen to this, ages 17+ for sex, violence and language. I’m going to continue with Hemingway but next time will be a movie review, until then, here’s hoping you’re somewhere sunny!